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vealed his deity, the accompanying symbols denoted the agency he was to exert; his relation to the stars and candlesticks, his rule over the church; the sword proceeding from his mouth, the avenging sentence he was to pronounce on his enemies.
In denominating the seven stars and seven candlesticks a mystery, and explaining their meaning, it is shown that the objects presented in the visions are representative, and that the principle of representation is analogy. A star is a teacher who spreads the light of God's word through the circle around him ; a candlestick a church supporting such a teacher in the station in which he fulfils that office.
The seven churches are treated by Vitringa and many others as symbolic, but in violation of analogy, as it implies both that the representative agents are of the same species as the beings whom they represent, and their actions the same as those which they foreshadow. The admission of such a principle of representation, were to involve the whole Apocalypse in uncertainty. If each of the seven churches indicate a similarity of doctrine and character in the church at large at a later period, then must the wild beast with seven heads and ten horns be held as symbolizing a vast body of similar wild beasts ; which as it would imply the creation of a new species, and therefore a total departure from the laws of providence, and is unworthy to be made the subject of prophecy, is wholly incredible.
It is equally at variance with the law, that no act of a symbol can represent an act of the agent symbolized, unless it be either really exerted by the representative, or exhibited to the prophet in vision. But of the things predicated of those churches, a portion were future. Some of their members were to be cast into prison, and to suffer persecution ten days; some were to be kept from the hour of temptation which was to come on the whole world ; and others were to be rebuked in love and chastened. In order, therefore, that their future existence and agency in those conditions, might be made a symbol of the existence and like agency of the church in similar conditions at future periods, the agents, scenery, and actions should have been exhibited to the apostle in vision. Such is invariably the law of symbolization, and obviously for the most imperative reasons. To make a mere fictitious act, which has not been invested with even a visionary existence, a representative, were to make a nonentity a sign ; and thence, if the assumption on which the construction in question proceeds were legitimate, that the symbol and thing symbolized are of the same species, were to make the action foreshown
also a nonentity; which were not only to degrade the whole to utter unintelligibleness, but to make the pretence that it is a representation of the future, a mockery.
These views are confirmed by their want of success, who have endeavored to show a correspondence between the characteristics of the first six of the churches, and the church at large at six successive periods. The applications of Mr. Brightman, Dr. More, Vitringa, and others, are wholly arbitrary, exhibit no better resemblances than might be found at many other periods, and are embarrassed at every step by flagrant contradiction, or a total want of likeness.
Equally erroneous is the assumption which others have advanced, that those churches were symbols of the church at large of that period. That is likewise against analogy, which forbids the use of a symbol of the same species, as the thing symbolized, except when no other adequate representative can be found. But that reason does not exist for making the church a symbol of itself, as it is actually represented in the Apocalypse by a candlestick.
Those churches then are not symbolic. Neither are the messages addressed to them wholly prophetic, though they foreshow trials and persecutions on the one hand, and supports and rewards on the other. They are however not the less important, as they make known the great principles on which the Redeemer was to conduct his administration through a long succession of ages, and form thence a most instructive introduction to the visions, in which the conduct of men under that administration is foreshown. Thus he not only proclaims to them his deity, his prerogatives as the Ruler of the universe, his claims to their homage, and his perfect knowledge of their character and condition, but apprizes them that he is to subject them to trial, and allow some to be persecuted and put to death ; that he shall desert and disown the lukewarm, and overwhelm with terrible judgments the apostate, but support the faithful with his presence, and finally crown them with eternal rewards ;-promises and threatenings that have been conspicuously verified in his providence toward both churches and individuals, through the long series of ages that has followed.
CHAPTER II. 1-28.
EPISTLES TO EPHESUS, SMYRNA, PERGAMOS, AND THYATIRA.
To the messenger of the church in Ephesus write; These saith he who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and that thou canst not bear the wicked, and thou hast tried them who call themselves apostles, and are not, and hast found them false ; and thou hast patience, and hast borne for my name, and hast not fainted. But I have [it] against thee that thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore whence thou hast fallen, and reform and do thy first works. But is not, I come to thee quickly ; and I will remove thy candlestick from its place, unless thou reform. But thou hast this, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.
And the messenger of the church in Smyrna write: These saith the First and the Last, who was dead and has revived, I know thy works, and affliction, and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and false accusation by those
who say they are Jews, and are not, but a synagogue
of Satan. Fear not what thou art about to susser. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried ; and ye shall have affliction ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be injured by the second death.
And to the messenger of the church in Pergamos write : These saith he who has the two-edged sharp sword, I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, where the throne of Satan [is.] And thou holdest my name, and wouldst not deny my faith even in the days in which Antipas (was] my faithful witness, who was put to death among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against thee; that thou hast there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat offerings to idols, and commit fornication. So also thou hast those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans in like manner. Reform therefore. But if not, I come to thee quickly, and I will fight with them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give of the manna which is hidden. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.
And to the messenger of the church in Thyatira write: These saith the Son of God, who has his eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet like glowing brass ; I know thy works, and love, and faith, and ministry, and thy patience, and thy last works to be more than the first. But I have [it] against thee that thou sufferest thy wife Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and teaches and seduces my servants to commit fornication, and eat offerings to idols. And I gave her time that she might reform, and she chooses not to reform from her fornication. Behold, I cast her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they shall reform from her works. And I will slay her children with death. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the reins and hearts, and I will give to each one of you according to your works. But to you the rest who are in Thyatira I say, as many as do not hold that doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak, I lay on you no other burden; but what ye have, hold until I come. And he who overcomes, and who keeps my works to the end, I will give him power over the nations, and he shall rule them with an iron sceptre, as vessels of clay are broken, as I have received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The doctrine of Balaam was the doctrine that the ministers of God might, for gain, counsel and promote the seduction of his people to mingle in the feasts and impurities of idolaters : the doctrine of the Nicolaitans probably, that the people of God might lawfully partake of their offerings to idols, and indulge in their excesses.
To slay with death, is to destroy by a natural disease, in contradistinction from an extraordinary and violent instrument, as by the pestilence instead of the sword.
As all the gifts promised to the victorious are gifts after their victory, the hidden manna denotes the sustenance in the life of the future world, and subsequently to their resurrection doubtless, like the other rewards, all of which are of that period. Thus the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God, is the tree of life in the new Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from God at the establishment of Christ's kingdom on the earth, after the first resurrection. To be freed from the power of the second death, is to have part in the first resurrection. To receive a white stone, on which a new name is written, is to receive a badge of the new and peculiar relation to Christ, to which the redeemed
are to be exalted at their resurrection and acceptance. To have power over the nations, and rule them with an iron sceptre, is to be made a king over them, and to reign with Christ, which is not to be granted till the commencement of his visible reign on earth, after the first resurrection. As Christ is the bright and morning star which is then to rise on the new Jerusalem, and supersede the need in it of sun or moon; to have that star is to belong to the new Jerusalem at its descent from heaven. To be clothed in a white robe, is to be clothed as the bride is adorned, when prepared by a resurrection and acceptance for a descent as the new Jerusalem. To have the name of God written on the forehead, and the name of the city of God the new Jerusalem, is to be one of the raised and glorified saints. And to sit with Christ on his throne, is to reign with him in his kingdom, during the period denoted by the thousand years, after the first resurrection. The reason that the blessings thus promised to the faithful are all blessings of the life that is to follow the resurrection, is, doubtless, that otherwise they were not blessings of a full redemption from the curse of sin, and an elevation to the stations and honors which Christ is to confer on his people, on their public adoption as joint heirs with him and sons of God. Their full release from the penalty of sin is not to be accomplished till they are restored from the dominion of death, its great public penalty, and raised to an immortal and glorious life. To have promised any thing less than these gifts, had been only to promise something intermediate between the blessings of this life and a full salvation.
CHAPTER III. 1-22.
EPISTLES TO SARDIS, PHILADELPHIA, AND LAODICEA.
And to the messenger of the church in Sardis write: These saith he who has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars, I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things remaining that are about to die ; for I have not found thy works perfectly performed before my God. Remember, therefore, how thou hast received, and heard, and hold, and reform. If therefore thou shouldst not watch, I will come to thee as a thief, and thou canst not know in what hour I will come